Saturday, May 26, 2007

An outing to the countryside

My parents are currently visiting from Germany, and I had the nice challenge of finding a destination for an enjoyable outing that wouldn't proove to be to much for my mum's back problems.
We set out from a very sunny and warm London and drove North-West towards Oxford. As Oxfordshire opened up before us (my very favourite view as you drive down the hill between two rock walls), we saw a big black wall of clouds that seemed to cover all of Oxfordshire. OH NO!
Well, we continued on into Oxford and after finally locating a parking spot (quite a challenge, as anyone knows, who's tried this feat before) started having a look around. I love the old university buildings and book stores, cafés and shops. But - of course - it started raining. After fleeing into a little Italian restaurant and making the best out of the weather by having some lunch inside, I ran for the car and picked my parents up where they had found some shelter from the rain.
What to do?! There was no way I'd give up. Should I just let a rain front alter my plans for the day? Nope! Sooooo, we bravely went on through the rain to Blenheim Palace to have a look at the gardens and park. AND..... the sun came through after all!!!!!! Yey! Here are some pictures from the garden and the Butterfly House at Blenheim (the once-upon-a-time-home of Winston Churchill)

Also, we found the very nice maze. And while my mother sat down as she was in quite a lot of back pain, my father and I went to explore ..... The Maze .....

Oh, and the really funky Month-of-the-Year-Sun-Dial! Have a look at this! Of course I just had to try it... I stood with my feet in the little square readying 'May' and..... shadow appeared just slightly left of the 5 on the sun dial. Great - It definitely works (as long as there is some sunshine)!

A lovely end to a day that turned out really nice after all.
So, we took the little train back across the grounds to the car....
.... got the car, and drove home towards London :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sock Progress

My first sock (here modelled by M.) for the Sockapalooza4 Exchange is almost done. I liked the colour of the wool so much (Poison No. 5 from Wollmeise), that I didn't knit a pattern after all, but left everything very simple. I hope my sock pal will like it...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Baby hats no II

And here they are: the second lot! Well actually the seventh, but I didn't take any pictures of the first five. This was in my blogless era. I went to the post office after taking the pictures so the hats should arrive at their destination on Friday.

Mr. Bear got to go down to the garden for the photo shoot - yes it's spring! Can you see that I'm very proud of my little garden...? I did a variation on the upside down daisy from Susan B. Anderson's itty-bitty hats.

The other one it a top-down anime hat pattern from Hello Yarn with the famous figure 8 cast on. I have to say it was much easier than I anticipated. Hello Yarn has a help website for figure 8 cast on where everything is very well explained. My problems with this pattern started after the cast on, but I'm not sure if that was my own inability of reading pattern or the distraction in the cafe - I ended up ripping everything apart and starting new, but the second time it went well - as you can see. I also managed to use all the blue yarn for my sister's birthday blanket (she has seen a picture of the work in progress - now she's sure what she'll get and promised to wait patiently) which means I'll have to go out and buy some more. I also managed to roll the wool we bought from Wollmeise for my sockpal into a ball. Huge ball!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Where you feel most at home

Ever been in a place, doing something you feel completely happy with who you are and what you're doing? A selfish ambition? Without wanting to become all philosophical about it (especially, since other people have written about it, sung and played and acted about it, danced and sculpted and designed their thoughts about it much more eloquently than I would presume to be able to), music and singing is just this place for me. Funnily enough, this always comes to mind when I am extremely tired and ask myself - was this really what I had in mind. The answer has to be yes! So, no rest for the wicked, and on with work.

Yesterday I got together with some friends and colleagues to prepare for some mosaique workshops we are going to offer in Germany and the UK. As some of them are not singers, I was taking them through a vocal workshop, so they would know what to expect, and I thought again what an amazing privilege it is to do what I love best :)

Friday, May 18, 2007

I won!

I'm participating in a Knitter's Coffee Swap (perfect!) and the hostess has given us contests to participate in. The last one was 'Still live with with Coffee and Yarn' - you were asked to send in photos or poems in case you didn't have a camera. AND I WON - together with a lovely poem by Jenn. And this is the photo...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Things that I thought I wouldn't do anymore...

Seeing myself in this picture about six weeks ago (in the black dress at Birmingham Symphony Hall) after a Bach B Minor Mass is something I thought I wouldn't be able to do ever again in my life.
The day started with a drive to Birmingham for the rehearsal. When I arrived, I was shown the most amazing dressing room (MY own dressing room with MY name on the door!) I had a piano all to myself, a sofa, dressing table and - a private bathroom with shower and towels! I've had several dressing rooms over the years, but none of them ever had a private bathroom...
The performance went well. The sleeves that were sown onto my dress by my friend S. stayed in place (she made almost 10 different sleeves until they fit perfectly) - even when I hugged the concert master in the interval after our Solo in Laudamus Te. The biggest problem proved to be a glass of water under my chair - courtesy of stage management. Every time I sat down I thought I'd knock it over (I'm the kind of person who might just end up with a soaking wet dress on stage....).

So, looking at the picture made me realise that there had been a time when I thought I would never go out and perform again. Not because of a personal choice or ugly voice or lack of discipline or bad teachers - but because of illness.

Two weeks after the performance in Birmingham I celebrated my 12th birthday of my 'second' life. Exactly 12 years before to the day I was literally quite ready to leave this world. I had lost everything I thought counted in life: I had lost my health, I was almost unable to leave bed without help, I lived on boiled carrots and apples for months (all other food would lead to massive gastrointestinal problems - therefore I had the amazing weight of 42kg, being 170cm tall), I was in constant pain and could hardly sleep. I couldn't work, couldn't go to university, couldn't do the performances I was booked for. I had lost almost all of my friends and lived with my parents as I needed to be looked after. I had a very hard time not to loose all of my dignity with all the doctors examining me and medical tests I went through. I was 24 and life as such as I imagined it was no more.

That first day of my 'new life', despite being my lowest point, was also the day where I got the first medicine that worked (otherwise this day wouldn't have been worth remembering as 'second' birthday). While I'm writing this I remember glaring at the glass bottle with the medicine, trying to figure out whether or not to take it. It sounds pretty strange, but the thing was: I just knew this medicine would work. I had heard other people talk in the waiting room of the specialist. I had heard them talking about symptoms that I had - though less dramatic than mine - and they were starting to get better. There was a real chance. I knew this - what I didn't know was if I wanted the fight back to life. Would I have enough strength to do it? I have no idea how long I sat there thinking and looking at the flowers that our neighbour had just planted the day before. What made me make my mind up? Actually, those flowers and my family. My parents, who had always given everything we really wanted to me and my sister. Even if this was my last chance to survive, I owed it to them. So I did take the medicine. I come from a stubborn family.

I didn't talk much about being ill in those years. This is partly because it was a too emotional subject, partly because a singer who is known to have been sick for a long time isn't very likely to get job (he/she is considered as a hazard), partly because I was sick of people's reactions when I explained what I had. I have CFS due to a viral infection which was wrongly diagnosed.

When we started the blog I knew all along I wanted to write about illness and survival (and G. always encouraged me to do this), but I didn't want to admit what I have. People with 'serious' illness make it back into life and everyone is amazed about their positive attitude and their success. CFS people don't get this benefit: there is lots of prejudice that it's 'all in your mind' and worse, 'you're probably responsible for your illness, you have no will power, no positive attitude, no drive for life'. You should just rest for a while or have a good night's sleep and all would be better. Well, not quite.

Why did I change my mind? I watched a US TV spot about CFS this morning and remembered how my life was before getting medication that helped. For months I have been listening to knitting podcasts saying we need to raise our voice if we don't like some things (like wool with knots, and by the way: I hate that too!) and want to make a difference to the world. So why not make my voice heard about something that has completely changed my life? It might not make much difference, but it might just give one person some hope and then it was worth all the trouble. Besides, I want to see the person with none of the above troubles go out on the platform of a 2500 people auditorium and perform as a soloist....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


You can find Wollmeise here or visit her blog It was the first I was buying wool online and I haven't been disappointed. Colours are exactly like you see them on the website pictures and the amount of yarn in one skein is amazing. It took almost 30min to roll it up.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

and... just one more, because it was so beautiful

Sockapalooza4 pals, here come your socks!!!!!

The colours were so amazing, so here are a few shots of the wool....

The wool came!!!!!!!

It arrived in two beautiful packages (ok, admittedly, they looked more beautiful than this before we unwrapped them for the first time)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Baby Hats

Here they are: the finished baby hats. I made a couple of them earlier this year - before I started the blog - so obviously I didn't take any pictures before I gave them away. I'll try to change that in the future....

Here are the Daisy Hat and the Rosebud Hat (from itty-bitty hats by Susan B. Anderson) for Baby A. born on March 14th to my lovely English/German friends who moved from London to Dresden last year.

Models are Teddy and Mr. Bear. Fortunately, Mr. Bear (left) had no problems to be the model for a girl's hat! I hope he won't mind doing that again as my friend M. from Germany just had a wonderful baby girl. Baby C. was born on April 24th and I started knitting a couple of hats for her... Mr. Bear comes from the Teddy Bear Factory in Vermont, I got him years ago when I went to the U.S.

Teddy is G.'s bear and is my usual baby hat model. Teddy got so upset when I made this hat with ears (still from itty-bitty hats) and gave it away, that I had to make one for Teddy to keep.... The blanket under Teddy was part of the gift and my very first blanket.

For the new baby hat I have tried the figure 8 cast on and at the moment it looks like this. Casting on was not as bad as I thought - probably problems now will start to dribble in...

Monday, May 7, 2007

A day off....??

It is bank holiday Monday (official holiday in England) and a day off... or so one would hope. Not quite. What a great idea to start cleaning - and why stop with the house and not continue with the office... Just to have fun while doing this, how about some music :) I think it'll have to be some good old Jazz standards today.

To everyone else, have a lovely week and never mind that Monday feeling!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Tigerduck - the inside story

M. found a picture of my namesake "Tigerente" for my profile. I thought I'd also let you see all my friends. (see picture on the right). I am the beautiful one at the front :) In the stories, I never get a line to say, but Tiger doesn't go anywhere without me - and I am in more pictures than anyone else (see the Soprano connection?!).
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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

We got into the finals!

I know it happened last week, but I didn't have a blog to post it then! The vocal group mosaïque that G and I run, also runs an education programme in Germany. For the second year in a row we have made it into the finals in the prestigious National Competition "Kinder zum Olmyp" (children to the Olympus) run by the Kulturstiftung Deutscher Länder and Deutsche Bank.
Both of our 2006 programmes Dreams in Opera and OCSI (Opera CSI) have been chosen amongst 800 applications. Last year we were the only independent music group which made it into the finals! I'm very proud of this and of our wonderful team of 2006. Thank you guys again for all your enthusiasm, help and ideas which helped to carry this programme! I know it's not easy work, but we definitely made a difference in the life of the kids who participated.

For those of you who want to have a look at what we did in 2005, have a look at the "Kinder zum Olymp" website here and here. Sorry these are in German, but you can have look at the pictures...
Slowly, slowly, it is growing... between blogging and reading and practising and traveling and working!
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Running around

Only just time for a very quick entry before I dash off. Sunshine and a lot of London noises coming through my window. I have just found out the details for my sockpal (from the sockapalooza4) and will get knitting! Ha! I hope they will enjoy what I come up with as much as I will enjoy making it. Oh - the little lace scarf is growing on train rides and such-like. Thank you to Cheryl on the knitters' coffee swap, who pointed out this pattern:
I have doubled the pattern, as I am working with a much finer SeaSilk yarn. Lots of fun! I think M will chat a bit more about music very soon. Until then - have a great day!